Tree Rules #1

With online document repositories, record indexing, and the oh-so-simple-looking Search box, we grow accustomed to being taken magically to just the record we are looking for. Another birth date, another ancestor for the family tree. It is oh so simple.

Go ahead, you know you’re feeling lucky.

But in this simplicity, we run the risk of developing tunnel vision and missing related records, missing much needed historical context, and well, missing the journey itself.

When the Search takes you to the record you asked for, take the time to look up and look down in the document to get a lay of the land. In a census, read the prior 5 pages, and the following 5 pages. You may be pleasantly surprised with what you find. We’ve lost count of how many times we have been. What leads us to …

Rule 1: Look Up, Look Down

Abbreviations, Acronyms & Definitions

Abbreviations & Acronyms

abt. — about (meaning “within a few years of”)

aft. — after (meaning “on or after this date”)

atDNA — autosomal DNA is DNA from one of our chromosomes located in the cell nucleus. It generally excludes the sex chromosomes. Humans have 22 pairs of autosomal chromosomes and a pair of sex chromosomes.

bef. — before (meaning “on or before this date”)

bet. — between (meaning “on or between these dates”)

BGTF — beyond genealogical time frame

BHTF — beyond historical time frame

GGF, GGM, GGP — great-grandfather, great-grandmother, great-grandparent

MDKA — Most Distant Known Ancestor, the earliest known, documented ancestor on a specific genealogical line

MRCA — Most Recent Common Ancestor between two people in the genealogical time frame (e.g. NOT Adam and Eve!).

mtDNA — The genetic material found in mitochondria. It is passed down from females to both sons and daughters, but sons do not pass down their mother’s mtDNA to their children.

NN — Latin, nomen nescio (“I do not know the name ”) is used for unknown given names and surnames (e.g. John NN or NN Doe).

unk. — unknown

Y-DNA — A Y-DNA test looks at male inherited Y-chromosome DNA.


Remove — change one’s home or place of residence by moving to (another place)—“He removed to Wales and began afresh”.

Our Family Tree Standard Practices

Master Tree

The Spratlin-Knight-Wetherbee-Watne family tree is maintained by Ken Spratlin on

Other Trees

The master tree is periodically exported from as a GEDCOM file and uploaded to the The Next Generation of Genealogy Sitebuilding (TNG) application on this website. The description field for the tree on this website contains the date and time of export from The most up-to-date information is therefore found in the tree on

The master tree is also synced with the Family Tree Maker (FTM) [macOS] application. FTM is primarily used to perform find-and-replace operations, manage custom event types, and manage place names.

Naming Conventions

Birth name (including maiden last name) entered as preferred name fact. Unknown maiden last name usually entered as NN (MarriedLastName), if married last name known.

Subsequent name change (e.g. last name Smyth changed to Smith) or alternative name spelling entered as alternate name fact. Note that‘s search function appears to ignore text in parentheses (e.g. Smyth (Smith)).

This convention was adopted as we are generally researching back in time, up the tree, so birth name is usually of more interest than a name an individual may have used later in life.

Title (e.g. Doctor, Reverend, Private) entered as title fact.

Nickname entered as also known as fact. Nickname alternatively (legacy) entered as alternate name fact in parentheses instead of quotation marks (e.g. John (Johnny), instead of John “Johnny”).


Place (called location on name entered as current, rather than historical, name so will appear in the correct place on mapping services (e.g. Google Maps, OpenStreetMap, Apple Maps). Historical place name, if listed in a source, entered in the description field of the fact.

Despite using current place names, many places are not known by the geocoding services (converts address into latitude and longitude) used by these mapping services. Also, most geocoding services easily confuse towns and counties sharing the same name. Therefore, correct latitude and longitude have been entered into many of the place records in the FTM and TNG databases for the family tree.

Preferred and Alternate Facts

Alternate facts entered for name facts, birth facts, and death facts instead of adding the information to the name fields of a preferred name fact or to the description field of a preferred birth fact or preferred death fact (e.g. alternate name spelling entered as alternate name fact).

Note that does not provide the preferred and alternate feature for marriage facts, so multiple marriage facts may appear with no indication of which is preferred. If multiple marriage facts are added, and one is preferred, the words Preferred and Alternate are entered in the description fields of the marriage facts.

Custom Events

We use several custom event types. These are all indicated by custom event fact labels ending in ““. This makes them easier to find within the Family Tree Maker application. Most are self-explanatory; perhaps these are not:

Interesting …famous, distinguished, notorious, interesting, etc.
ISSUE …identifies an issue in a profile needing resolution
Relationship …provides additional relationship information
RESEARCH …identifies a (non-issue) topic for future research
WARNING … often identifies a non-person in the tree

Last Name Symbols

Despite numerous recommendations against doing so, we use a few symbols in the last name field of the name fact to make up for deficiencies in our research tools or our own memory.

People with these symbols in their name may be found using’s people search functions on their website . The search behavior seems to vary. Tree Search at the top of the profile or tree windows is not order sensitive as long as the name text is first (e.g. NameText + | or NameText | + gives the same result). The List of all people search is order-sensitive. The search function on’s iOS app is different, and this appears to not work at all

NN   Latin nomen nescio (“I do not know the name”) used for unknown first and last names (e.g. John NN or NN Doe); started using this instead of tbd after seeing NN as a standard for at least one world tree project

+   Direct ancestor of MKS

++   Direct ancestor of MKS with multiple descending lines

?   Confirmed by weak facts; something fishy needs to be resolved

??   A clue, not yet confirmed by facts (e.g. usually only saw name in someone else’s tree without supporting facts)

p??   Same as ?? but the parent (father and mother) relationships not yet confirmed
f??   Same as ?? but the father relationship not yet confirmed
m??   Same as ?? but the mother relationship not yet confirmed
s??   Same as ?? but the spouse relationship not yet confirmed

up??   Same as ?? but the ascendant relationship not yet confirmed (discontinued use)
dn??   Same as ?? but the descendant relationship not yet confirmed (discontinued use)
sp??   Same as ?? but the spouse relationship not yet confirmed (discontinued use)

???   Probably incorrect based on available facts; something VERY fishy needs to be resolved

#   Married a close cousin

|   Immigrant (usually to North America)

_   Not a member of the family, but included in the tree for reference (e.g. friends, neighbors, purchasers of family property)

Special Symbols

{{   Private note (e.g. phone numbers, email addresses)—The Next Generation of Genealogy Sitebuilding (TNG) application on is configured to treat the description field of facts beginning with {{ as private, and the information is not displayed.

^   Military service is indicated with this symbol at the beginning of the description field of a title fact. If the military rank is also known, the title follows the symbol (e.g. ^ Private).

/ We attempted to use the / (division) symbol in name facts at one time. We then learned that GEDCOM files use / to separate the prefix, first name, last name, and last name suffix fields of the name fact (e.g. John/Doe/). Using this symbol in the fields of a name fact caused serious problems when importing and exporting trees between various genealogy applications. So we do not do that any more!

(23 Jan 2019)

Danger! Construction Area

func integrateWordPressAndTNG() {

if me.amNotGenealogyNerd { return }

if me.amNotWebsiteDeveloper  { return }



func continueReading() {


This website was originally hosted on and used the Twenty Ten theme.

Then in Feb 2018, we wanted to add new functionality to the website to support sharing our family history and family tree—functionality that was unfortunately not supported by This led us to move to a web hosting solution that would still support WordPress well.

The website is now hosted on and built using the following:

The TNG content was wrapped inside the WordPress theme using these instructions (or alternatively these instructions) which document the Cees Kloosterman method.

It took us about 5 full days to learn enough TNG, PHP, and CSS during two unsuccessful attempts at configuring the website on a local host to then incorporate TNG into the website for real.

The successful integration took about 8 hours, resulting in a TNG template 12 mytngstyle.css that was good enough at matching the look-and-feel of TNG template 12 to the WordPress Twenty Seventeen theme.

Extensive customization of the CSS was required to reconcile conflicts between the WordPress Twenty Seventeen theme style.css, the TNG genstyle.css, and the TNG template 12 templatestyle.css, and was accomplished all in the TNG template 12 mytngstyle.css.

T.N.G Colouring Book was used to generate a first cut at the color palette changes to match TNG template 12 to the WordPress Twenty Seventeen theme. But we then just used its generated CSS file as a guide for the next step below.

Lots of manual tweaks were then made using Apple’s Safari Web Inspector to figure out what needed to be changed. Just check the checkbox for Show Develop menu in menu bar under Safari ‘s preferences advanced panel, and then enter option-command-I to enter the Web Inspector. This is a great way to learn CSS also.

Then a couple hours to fiddle with the .htaccess file, fix a few things with the URL structure, and finally flip the switch on the DNS from to

TNG is currently used on the pages reached at :

Menu > Our Genealogy > Our Family Tree

Menu > Our Genealogy > Tree Starting @ MKS

Feel free to contact us via the contact page for more info.

Update – 20 Apr 2018: The TNG Ancestor Map mod has now been installed on the website. This mod displays a map with all the places associated with an individual’s ancestors.

Update – 9 May 2018: TNG Version 12.0 has now been installed on the website.

WARNING: This website has only been tuned for desktop use, and admittedly only for Safari at this point. It needs some work for mobile device use, but does work pretty well already on an iPhone and iPad.